Idol singer Anthony Callea: My road trips with Jimmy Barnes
SINGER and songwriter Anthony Callea is best known for his runner-up performance in Australian Idol in 2004 but his other big passion is cars.
As a teenager, Callea was so keen to get behind the wheel he booked his driving licence test for 9am on his 18th birthday.
He already had a car, bought a month earlier with money from part-time jobs, singing competitions and acting gigs since he was 15. His parents insisted he would pay for it himself.
"I was just so excited," Callea says. "I washed it every three days even though I wasn't driving it on my own yet."
Callea got his licence first go - after his dad decided it was best he learn on an automatic.
"My dad tried to teach me how to drive a manual and I burnt his clutch within the first 100 metres of leaving our driveway," Callea says. "He basically pulled over and said, 'Get out, you're not even attempting to get your manual licence.'
"That was fine by me because I need one hand for the radio and I don't need to be thinking about changing gears."
It's little wonder Callea ended up with a passion for music and cars. His earliest memories of family road trips are from the back seat of the family Datsun 200B belting out Jimmy Barnes songs.
"My dad was a huge Jimmy Barnes fan … and we could never do a road trip without him bringing this old yellow cassette tape with his Jimmy Barnes favourites," he says.
"He brought it from his work car to the family car and we listened to Jimmy Barnes all the way there and all the way back. It was awesome. I think that's why I'm a huge fan of Jimmy as well."
The family car progressed from a white Datsun 200B to a "baby blue" Ford Falcon and then a Holden Commodore Berlina.
Callea's first car, however, was a 1985-86 Mercedes 190E, bought from his grandfather.
"It was olive green with cream leather seats that still had that old school smell of the leather. It even had a sunroof. It didn't matter that it was an old one, to me it was cool," he says.
After the Mercedes, Callea bought a BMW 320i from his uncle.
"I was keeping it in the family because at least you know it's been looked after. The thing that sold me on it was it had red leather seats."
He gets to drive a range of new Benzes as a brand ambassador yet says his favourite car of all time was his first.
"There's just something beautiful and exciting about buying your first car. And because it was my nonno's (grandfather's) it was even more special," Callea says. "My grandfather used to condition the leather seats himself, used to polish the paintwork himself, make sure the car was always really sparkling."
He enjoyed washing cars on the family driveway when growing up - and still does.
"Most people hate washing cars but I love it. I live in an apartment so sometimes I even take my car to my parents' place so I can wash it in their driveway. There's something really satisfying about washing your own car. And you always get into the alloys (wheels) better than those car wash places."
His dream car? "I know it sounds a bit over the top but any Rolls-Royce. I will never get to own a Rolls-Royce but it would be fun to have one. I would just love to see the RR logo on the steering wheel in front of you."
His pet hate? "People that do not know how to merge. It does my head in. Don't slow down, just keep going or speed up ever so slightly to make sure you don't cause an accident."